Contrarianism for the sheer hell of it is something one might expect from the crowd at Spiked - so-called because it should have been long ago - but not from supposedly mainstream pundits. But the ever-present demand for click bait brings the temptation for yet more cheap sensationalism, and that temptation has proved too much for the Mail on Sunday’s Peter Hitchens, the living embodiment of Tedious Maximus.
Hitchens’ usual modus operandi - to drone on and on without letting anyone get a word in edgeways until everyone else discovers they have something more interesting to do, or, more likely, falls asleep out of sheer boredom, is clearly not bringing sufficient engagement for his media masters, and so last weekend readers were served up an item titled “A tragedy twisted into a bogus 'terror plot’” about Jo Cox’s killer Thomas Mair.
Hitch goes on to froth “can we once and for all stop making the absurd claim that Jo Cox’s killer, Thomas Mair, was a serious political actor? … News reports from the time repeatedly quoted Mair’s brother Scott as saying that the killer had a history of psychiatric problems … His half-brother confirmed … OCD is often treated with powerful mind-altering drugs”. DRUGS! Half a spliff can send you haywire! It’s all about the DRUGS!
But do go on. “After he was caught and charged, his lawyer oddly said he would not bring his medical history into the case. Why not? Plainly Mair is a danger to others and his action was a terrible one. But why does authority ignore such vital facts? Does the Government want to believe, and to spread the idea, that there is some organised Right-wing terror plot?” Perhaps because OCD doesn’t lead directly to murder? Just a thought.
He then Tweeted out “Time to stop pretending that killing of Jo Cox was a political assassination. The killer was plainly seriously mentally ill”. His response to adverse comment was then to add “Alas, many political killers are entirely sane, for example the IRA who murdered their way into government and whose leaders ended up dining at Windsor Castle”. Which has zero relevance to Thomas Mair.
After more Hitch bluster, he was directed to an article in Examiner Live which sets out why Mair’s mental health was not brought up at his trial. “During his first court appearance Mair gave his name as ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’ prompting a senior magistrates to order a psychiatric assessment of Mair”. The Guardian confirmed “Police said the suspect had been declared fit to be interviewed after being medically examined”.
Peter Hitchens is welcome to bring forward his own evidence to counter that conclusion, but he will not. His is the privileged position of being able to cast doubt, sit in judgment and smear to his heart’s content, all the while knowing that he is encouraging the far-right in their efforts to dissociate themselves from an act of terror.
We had this discussion when Mair was tried and sentenced. He was fit to be interviewed, stand trial and be sentenced. There is not one jot of evidence to stand up the claim that he was “seriously mentally ill”. Hitchens’ intervention benefits only one group: those trying desperately to play down the surge in far-right terrorism.
Why would he do that? You might wish to ask that. I couldn’t possibly comment.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at